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Valentine.gr  

August 2014

Did you know that the gigantic fruit of Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica) reminds of a woman's pelvic area?

Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica). Plant, Male flower, fruit

Coco de Mer - Lodoicea maldivica

The Sea Coconut also known as Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivica), the sole member of the genus Lodoicea, is a palm endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse in the Seychelles. It formerly also was found on the small islets of St Pierre, Chauve-Souris and Ile Ronde (Round Island), all located near Praslin, but has become extinct there. The name of the genus, Lodoicea, is derived from Lodoicus, the Latinised form of Louis, in honour of King Louis XV of France.

The awesome coco-de-mer (Lodoicea maldivica) is a giant of the plant world; this palm has some of the longest leaves and the largest and heaviest seeds of any plant in the world. The tall slender trunk may tower up to 34 metres in height, bearing at its crown a mass of palm fronds. In mature individuals The leaves are fan-shaped, 7–10 m long and the leaf blades may be 4.5 metres wide and are fringed at the edges; withered leaves hang from the palm below the vibrant, healthy green crown.

Unlike other Seychelles palms, the male and female flowers of the coco-de-mer are borne on separate trees (it is dioecious); the male catkins can reach up to a metre in length, making them the longest in the world. Possibly the most renowned feature of this palm tree, however, are its enormous seeds. The mature fruit is 40–50 cm in diameter and weighs 15–30 kg, and contains the largest seed in the plant kingdom. oco-de-mer palms take 25 years to reach maturity and start bearing fruit. The fruit,  requires 6–7 years to mature and a further two years to germinate. The seeds usually have two lobes.

The Coco de Mer is one of the most universally well-known plants and holds three botanical records; the largest fruit so far recorded weighed 42 kg; the mature seeds weighing up to 17.6 kg are the world's heaviest and the female flowers are the largest of any palm.

The species is grown as an ornamental tree in many areas in the tropics, and subsidiary populations have been established on Mahe and Silhouette Islands in the Seychelles to help conserve the species. The fruit is used in Ayurvedic medicine and also in traditional Chinese medicine. In food, it is typically found as flavor enhancers for soups in southern Chinese cuisine, namely cuisine around the Canton region. The Coco de Mer fruit is edible, but is not commercially available due to the restricted distribution and difficulty in cultivating the plant. The jelly-like flesh of Coco de Mer was considered to have medicinal properties. The empty shells are carved into vessels and bowls; large ones have been carved into stools and table bases. (eol.org)

Formerly the Coco de Mer was known as Maldive Coconut. Its scientific name, Lodoicea maldivica, originated before the 18th century when the Seychelles were uninhabited. Then the true source of the nut was discovered in 1768 by Dufresne,

In centuries past the coconuts that fell from the trees and ended up in the sea would be carried away eastwards by the prevailing sea currents. The nuts can only float after the germination process, when they are hollow. In this way many drifted to the Maldives where they were gathered from the beaches and valued as an important trade and medicinal item.

this giant of the plant world was known to sailors in the Indian Ocean long before its real home was discovered. Over the ages, seeds of this legendary palm were found washed up on deserted beaches or floating on the waves and they become known as the 'coconuts of the sea' appearing to come from some mythical oceanic plant. Their suggestive two-lobed form gave rise to many legends – including a belief that they possessed aphrodisiac powers. 

The sailors who first saw the double coconut floating in the sea imagined that it resembled a woman's disembodied buttocks. This fanciful association is reflected in one of the plant's archaic botanical names, Lodoicea callypige Comm. ex J. St.-Hil., in which callipyge is from Greek words meaning 'beautiful rump'. Other botanical names used in the past include Lodoicea sechellarum Labill. and Lodoicea sonneratii (Giseke) Baill. The genus name is from Lodoicus, the Latinised form of Louis, in honour of King Louis XV of France

The captain surely imagined it all a little differently. The French adventurer Francois Pyrard intended on sailing to India in 1602. But when his ship Corbin gave out on the open seas, he had to seek refuge in the Maldives. Unfortunately, the king there wouldn't let the shipwrecked party leave for five years. When Pyrard and his crew were finally able to flee, they took the tale of the strange fruit with them back to Europe. It had been found frequently on the beaches of the islands. It wasn't just that they were gigantic, the fruit's shape was also reminiscent of a woman's pelvic region. The king demanded that these alluring finds be delivered directly to him, and threatened that those who didn't comply would lose a hand, or even be put to death.

The Coco de Mer has long been an object of fascination. Habsburg ruler Rudolf II forked out a king's ransom for the natural rarity, paying 4,000 guilders for a single nut. By way of comparison, the goldsmith from Prague who was paid to artfully encase it in gold typically brought home only 10 guilders a month.

During a visit to the Seychelles in the late 19th century, British Gen. Charles Gordon, the former governor-general of the Sudan, stumbled upon the following notion: He was convinced that the Coco de Mer was undoubtedly the forbidden fruit of the biblical Tree of Knowledge. Given what he believed was the nut's uncanny resemblance to a woman's "thighs and belly," he said that it was the only thing that could have unleashed all the cravings of the flesh. If there was any tree that could incite the curious, the evangelical Christian explained, it would be this one.

For centuries, inhabitants of the Seychelles had a thriving trade in the nuts. They were exported to a number of places, including India and China, where they were processed to produce medications and potency enhancers. In recent years, however, exporting them has become a bit more complicated.

However, the plant now faces several threats: from over-collection, alien invasive species, and an increasing frequency of fires, which is being exacerbated by climate change. Trade in the seeds is now closely controlled, but poaching remains a problem because of their high value on the tourist market. Although protected within National Parks, the two remaining populations are nevertheless threatened by fire and encroachment by invasive plants.

Source:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coco_de_Mer
http://www.arkive.org/coco-de-mer/lodoicea-maldivica/
http://www.seabean.com/guide/Lodoicea_maldivica/
http://www.palmpedia.net/wiki/Lodoicea_maldivica
http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/
panda-of-the-plant-world-berlin-goes-nuts-over-rare-palm-fruit-a-811841.html

 

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